The New “Gnormal” for Addressing Non-Stormwater Discharges: Establishing Water Use Efficiency as a Social “Gnorm,” Building Inter-Agency and Public Partnerships and Documenting Behavior Change with a Garden Gnome

Date / Time:
Tuesday, Sep 16 2:05pm to 2:35pm
Grand Ballroom G
Track / Session:

Statewide regulations such as NPDES permits and SBX7-7 emphasize elimination of dry weather runoff and reduction in water use. Amplified by an extreme state-wide drought, the need for stormwater, water agency and private partnerships are increasingly important in order to shift public perception toward more sustainable outdoor water use.

In partnership with the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) and the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), the Orange County Stormwater Program has developed the Overwatering Is Out campaign focused on water use efficiency and reduction of runoff from irrigation. The Overwatering Is Out campaign relies on a synergistic multi-agency approach to assist meeting regulatory requirements by changing public perception of a water efficient landscape and encouraging residential retrofits to reduce runoff.

Utilizing community-based social marketing (CBSM) techniques, the Overwatering is Out campaign targets behaviors identified by experts in the fields of stormwater and water use efficiency that are the most likely for residents to adopt and that can have the biggest impact on runoff reduction. Progress with meeting goals is tracked with pre- and post-campaign phone surveys and interim metrics such as geospatial tracking of “sign-ups” and number of residents directly taking an action toward more sustainable water use.

CBSM techniques stress elimination of barriers to action and community involvement in the solution. Overwatering Is Out does both through the OC Garden Friendly program by spreading awareness of rebates on water efficient irrigation devices and teaming up with home improvement stores to provide California-friendly plants at a more enticing price. The OC Garden Friendly program, a branch of the Overwatering Is Out campaign, presents another example of multi-organizational collaboration, in tandem with a successful public-private partnership.

What do garden gnomes have to do with residential landscaping, urban runoff and water use efficiency you might ask? Gnorman the OC Stormwater spokesgnome, named by Orange County residents and an expert on what happens in residential yards is the voice of Overwatering Is Out. Gnorman, as the face of Overwatering Is Out, is a layer removed from the jurisdictional or agency representative, providing an affable proxy for residents to become acquainted with the program. Through this folksy approach, the Overwatering Is Out puts a face on a complicated topic and has been a successful draw for residents.

The presentation will provide an overview of the Overwatering Is Out campaign, the importance of multi-organization collaboration, the value of having a “spokesgnome” and methods for tracking and highlighting residential engagement. An overview of metrics, participation tracking and email testing for the best approach to messaging will highlight the details of the Overwatering Is Out effort.

Primary Speaker:
Jenna Voss, County of Orange
As Public Education Coordinator for the Orange County, California Stormwater Program, Jenna Voss administers the Countywide education campaign – H2OC. The primary responsibility of her position is to coordinate with representatives from 34 municipalities, County staff, non-profit agencies, and educational organizations to effectively oversee the development of educational programming. She also serves on steering committees for educational events with other water agency representatives. Prior to her position as Public Education Coordinator, Jenna held positions in aquatic research with academic, non-profit and Federal agencies, gaining an appreciation for the regulatory process. Jenna holds a Bachelors of Science in the Environment from the University of Michigan.